The European Union has imposed punitive tariffs on imports of Vietnamese shoes, saying Vietnam unfairly subsidizes its shoe industry. Vietnam says it is just being punished for its efficiency.
The director of the Competition Management Department of Vietnam's Ministry of Trade, Dinh Thi My Loan, held a workshop for Vietnamese journalists this week.
Her mission was to coach the Vietnamese press on how to present Vietnam's case that it does not engage in dumping - which means selling goods for less than it costs to make them.
Loan says Vietnamese editors and newspapers need to be careful about printing articles that can put Vietnam at a disadvantage in trade lawsuits.
This unusual workshop followed an EU vote last week to impose anti-dumping tariffs on Vietnamese and Chinese shoes for the next two years. Tariffs of 10 percent on Vietnamese shoes took effect Saturday.
Vietnamese shoe imports to the European Union have doubled since 2001, while countries like Italy, Poland and Greece have lost tens of thousands of shoemaking jobs. The European Union charges that Vietnam subsidizes its shoe companies with low prices for electricity and rent.
Vietnamese Leather and Footwear Association secretary-general, Nguyen Thi Tong, says Vietnam is simply more efficient and has lower labor costs than European firms.
Tong says Vietnam does not subsidize its industries or practice dumping, and the European tariffs are not fair trade.
The question of whether Vietnam is actually dumping shoes on the European market is complex. A typical Vietnamese shoe worker earns less than $50 a month, a fraction of what a European makes.
In addition, the European Union considers Vietnam a "non-market economy", where business expenses such as energy and land may be set artificially low by the government.
When EU investigators tried to determine the real cost of Vietnamese shoes, however, the results were inconclusive.
Many Northern European countries voted against the tariffs, saying they would hurt European consumers more than they would help European shoe workers. But the majority, including the shoe-making countries, won the vote.
At Monday's press workshop in Vietnam, the Ministry of Trade's Loan advised journalists on how to portray trade matters to Vietnam's favor. For instance, she asked them not to focus on the rapid growth of Vietnamese industry.
Loan says that when Vietnamese newspapers reported shoe exports had soared by 23 percent, the Europeans clapped their hands. She said EU countries can invoke such sudden jumps in imports to justify anti-dumping tariffs.
The European Union says it will reconsider the tariffs next year. But according to Tong, of the shoe manufacturers' association, the damage has already been done.
Tong says that since the European Union began looking into Vietnamese production costs early this year, 50,000 Vietnamese footwear workers have lost their jobs.